Continuing our popular series of interviews with role models in the dwarfism community we spoke with John Young, teacher, coach, athlete and marathon runner. Check out what he had to say below. For other interviews in the series click here.
Please introduce yourself: who are you and where are you from?
My name is John Young. I am originally from Toronto, ON, Canada, but I have been living in Massachusetts in the US since 2003.
And what do you do?
I am a high school math teacher and coach, having coached both basketball and swimming.
Do you enjoy it?
I have been teaching for 28 years and can honestly say I still get up in the morning and cannot wait to get to school.
How did you end up doing it?
I had a great experience, with a few of my own high school teachers, in that I saw how “GOOD” teachers can positively affect the lives of the students, and aspired to do the same.
If you were 21 again, would you do something different?
Would probably have started running, as I did not start doing that until I was 43, back in 2009.
What’s the best thing about your job?
I love working with teenagers. They are independent and naive both at the same time. I have come to learn that if you treat teens with respect and demand that all they do is try their best, you get the BEST from them.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?
When I was 16 I worked at the laundry in a large hotel. All I did for 8 hours a day, is sort dirty bed linens. It taught me the importance of getting a good education.
What are the best and worst aspects about being small?
The funny thing is, the best and worst part is the SAME THING, and its the fact that I am easily recognizable. Usually when someone meets me once, I am not easily forgotten. That’s good if you’re looking to make an impression, say for a job interview, etc. But, on the flip side, when dealing with total strangers in a more informal setting, that can sometimes lead to rude comments, etc. I can handle those, but it would be great if I didn’t have to spend my energy on negative people. I also consider myself very lucky, in that I have not had one single surgery related to my short-stature.
If you could pass on one piece of advice to your teenage self what would that be?
Similar to an answer above. I would tell myself to be more physically active. I think a lot of LPs [people with dwarfism] are told to be careful about running, as we are told, it’s not good for our backs. I have come to realize that I personally, have more problems sitting and standing for long periods of time, than I do when I’m running.
Which living person do you most admire and why?
Dick and Rick Hoyt. They are a father and son team who have completed over 1,000 races. Rick has cerebral palsy and his father pushes him in a wheelchair in his races. They have completed the Boston Marathon 30+ times, and I have had the honor of racing with them since 2013.
How do you like to pass the time, outside of work?
I took up multi-sport racing, specifically triathlon, back in 2009. When I not with my family or at work, I am usually out training by swimming, biking, running, or racing. Since 2009, I have completed more than 50 triathlons, 15+ Half-Marathons, and 9 marathons, including both the NYC and Boston marathons. I am also the first person with dwarfism to complete a Half-Ironman, and I’ve done 10 of those. In 2016 I completed Ironman Maryland and raced it again this past October.
What’s your favourite book?
UNBROKEN by Lauren Hillenbrand
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
I have had many people with short-stature and parents of people with dwarfism contact me to say that I am helping to change to perception about what a person with dwarfism can do. For instance, on numerous occasions parents of LPs have been told that there child can’t take part in a particular activity at school or on a sports team for fear that they might get hurt. The parents have then shown the teacher, coach, or even a doctor, a clip of me racing a triathlon, and I’m helping to change perceptions. This means more to me than any finisher’s medal I get at the end of a race.
When your time comes, how would you like to be remembered?
I’d love to be remembered as a person who never believed it when someone told me, “You can’t do that, you’re too small.”